When you need some crunch
Usually a few days into a vacation, my daughters and I will be turning in for the night and someone will roll their eyes and say, “I need a crunchy salad.” And then everyone groans and agrees. And then we go right back to vacation eating, which doesn’t include much crunchy salad, unless it’s under a big scoop of posole or doused with some kind of yummy un-crunchiness.
That’s how we felt this week, in the wake of Halloween and a trip to Louisiana (nothing in that state is crunchy unless it’s fried), both. So the day we came home, there was no discussion about what to have for dinner. We just wanted the crunchiest version of a fall salad that we could put together.
This salad is it. There’s so much crunch – radishes, frisee, walnuts – that my girls have to turn on the music during dinner because apparently I crunch too loudly. No matter, crunch is good here. Add the sweet-tart, chewy cranberries (perfect for the season) and creamy blue cheese (which is so, so good with the cranberries and walnuts), and you’ve got an almost-virtuous salad you can’t wait to dip into.
One key: make the dressing. It makes the salad – this one, or any one. This is a good, basic, easy dressing that that I use as a base, then change with what’s in a salad. Often I’ll use less oil and just lemon juice in place of the vinegar-lemon mix, and I’ll omit the honey. Sometimes I use a honey balsalmic (really yummy when you’re adding pears to the salad). Or I’ll use different seasonings and herbs. But the bottom line is: make the dressing. Your salad will taste like something bright and special. Promise. And you’ll never have to empty your fridge of all those half-used bottles again. Especially when doing the post-vacation fridge clean-out.
¼ cup minced shallot
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 cups mixed greens
1 head frisee, chopped
3 scallions, chopped
3 radishes, very thinly sliced
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
Optional: top the salad with grilled chicken or protein of choice
For the dressing, mix the shallots, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl, and let it sit for 10 – 15 minutes or so. Whisk in the honey, then keep whisking and drizzle in the olive oil. Mix in the salt and pepper, and give it a taste (dip in a leaf of lettuce). You may want to add a little more oil, vinegar, salt, pepper…whatever makes the lettuce sing to you. I sometimes make the dressing in one of those small, lidded, leftover containers – you can just shake it all up with the lid on.
Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl and toss with enough dressing just to coat (you will have extra). Turn on some music, and tell your kids you’re going to crunch as loud as you want, whether they like it or not.
PS – Top the salad with sliced or chopped grilled chicken and call it dinner.
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